Morrison flew, at taxpayers’ expense, to the Gold Coast to attend the Australian Christian Churches (ACC) national conference and gave a speech. This led to numerous online discussions about the fact of the speech, that a transcript was not publicly released by the Prime Minister’s Office, and subsequently, the content of the speech.
In an online discussion on April 28, an interlocutor asked of David Crowe (Chief political correspondent, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age):
“Do you know what Pentecostals actually believe? Because if you do, can you explain your assertion that they should be respected? Thank you.”
Crowe replied with:
“Try replacing “Pentecostals” with “Hindu” or “Bhuddhist” [sic]. Of course people should be respected.”1
He also gave a link to an article he had written for the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Time for tolerance on Morrison’s faith but time to be upfront as well”2.
A few days later someone else replied to Crowe with:
“Alternatively, try replacing “shallow analogy” with actual analysis. Instead of a ridiculous knee-jerk order to ‘respect’ some set of beliefs just [because] they call themselves a religion, let’s look at the actual beliefs and bestow respect accordingly.”1
It is hard to disagree.
In his article, Crowe did note that Morrison flew to the Gold Coast for the ACC national conference at taxpayers’ expense3, and that the speech was not released by his office, but that a video of it was later made public by the advocacy group Rationalists Australia2. Not long after the video appeared, someone transcribed it and shared it about.
Crowe believed that it was a shame the speech was not released, “because Australians want to know more about what makes their Prime Minister the man he is”. I don’t think we need a speech to a group of the religious to know what sort of man Morrison is. He is a person who lies incessantly, announces myriad ‘plans’ without ever following through, abrogates responsibility as much as possible, never accepts blame for anything, gleefully accepts plaudits for others’ efforts, never apologises for anything, and avoids answering questions if they are in any way difficult. That is the sort of man he is; a malevolent spiv, not unlike Donald Trump.
Crowe rightly understands that Morrison’s secretive speech was “about narrowcasting. Morrison wants to speak directly to people of faith without risking a wider conversation with Australians who might be confronted by what he believes”2. It is an attempt to shore up any support he has with the ‘modern christians’ to try to retain power. ‘Modern christians’ are those who have jettisoned any pretence of believing the supposed words of Jesus and replacing them with the prosperity gospel, which is all about power and money.
Crowe continued in saying that the strong response made Morrison’s office’s reluctance to release the speech understandable and said: “Those who dislike Morrison’s politics felt entitled to mock his beliefs and malign his church even though we live in a society that is meant to respect freedom of religion.”
There are two main assertions of Crowe’s which need to be addressed.
Firstly, in his tweet in which he suggests replacing Pentecostal with “Hindu or Bhuddhist [sic]”, he apparently conflates a belief with a person who holds that belief. I usually treat people with respect and I have worked, and am working, with a few people who have very strong religious beliefs, and I deal with them professionally and courteously, the same way they treat me. They know I am an atheist and do not attempt in any way to push their beliefs on me, and I do not ridicule their beliefs. However, if they did attempt to push their beliefs on me, I would tell them very clearly what I think of those beliefs. Unlike Crowe, I do not conflate the person with their belief.
Secondly, Crowe seems to think that attacking such beliefs as Morrison has, is an attack on freedom of religion. It is not. Many people believe all sorts of things; that having a black cat cross your path is bad luck; that luck actually exists; that Bill Gates has inserted chips into Covid-19 vaccines for mind control; that the world is run by a cabal of billionaire paedophiles; that thousands of children have been kept against their will in tunnels beneath Melbourne; that the earth is flat; that the Covid-19 pandemic is a hoax; that all good christians will be raptured up to heaven when Jesus ‘returns’; and that a god who created the universe is extremely interested in what every single person does in their everyday lives, especially when their trousers are off. Nobody stops people believing such drivel. It is just that people like me just tend to argue against the idiocy of such beliefs when they raise their silly head above the parapet. Crowe almost seems not to have noticed that Morrison is religious and is, at the same time, the Prime Minister. Given that attacks on beliefs have been happening for many years, and if they are an attack on freedom of religion, then they have been singularly unsuccessful.
What I find galling is that the religious seem to believe they deserve respect simply because they are religious; because they have ‘faith’. It is far beyond time to reverse this idea that religious ‘faith’ intrinsically deserves respect, and that it should be protected by custom or, as some would have, by law, against criticism and ridicule. Indeed, “to believe something in the face of evidence and against reason – to believe something by faith – is ignoble, irresponsible and ignorant, and merits the opposite of respect. It is time to say so”4. Believing something despite evidence and reason is what climate change denialism is all about; believing climate change is untrue despite decades of evidence which reason tells us is endangering human and other life on this planet.
Although it has been asserted time and again, especially by Australian christians, that they are under threat of discrimination; they are not. Indeed, Section 116 of the Australian Constitution states:
“The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”6
I know the Constitution does not mean much to the current crop of conservatives, as demonstrated by their lack of attention to Section 44 and by their enforcing the recital of Lord’s Prayer at the opening of parliament, an appeal to the High Court would squash any legislative discrimination against the religious or forced observance by them, as the High Court is the final arbiter of the Constitution. What concerns the religious most is that they may lose their privilege, power and influence. The religious do not want to protect their ‘religious freedom’, they want to entrench their privilege and want to do it through legislation. The privilege they wish to entrench includes the ability to discriminate against people they do not like, and the ability to utter hate speech6,7.
At base, what concerns the religious most is the decline in religion around the world and their coming decline into irrelevance and with it, ridicule of them. Their privilege is of such longstanding that they cannot contemplate being without it. It scares the bejesus out of them.
I completely agree. Also AC Grayling’s piece is excellent. I particularly enjoyed some of the astoundingly weird comments. My God religious people are nuts.
Many of the religious do make me laugh. On facebook there is a group called ‘let’s all laugh at religion’ and they put some extraordinarily wacky stuff up there, some of it uttered by the religious themselves. I oscillate between belly-laughs and utter disbelief at the stupidity.
I saw the article and initially thought Crowe was attempting to walk the fine line between religious tolerance and (simplistic) analysis of Morrison’s personal faith but on re-reading it I have to agree with critics. It’s a sop, aimed at not offending people with similar beliefs to Morrison. As such it’s a gross failure because the religion itself MAY not be the issue. What is is the way it’s observed and how its devotees practice it in their lives. The disconnect between Morrison’s beliefs and his actions should be apparent to Crowe. It’s plenty obvious to others.
The answer to Crowe’s question “What’s so horrifying about it?” is obvious to anyone who isn’t so heavily buried in the hubris of politics as the author. It’s simple David – it’s Morrison’s GROSS HYPOCRISY, as laid bare by John Hewson, who at least looked beyond the obvious when addressing the issue.
“At the United Israel dinner in Randwick he [Morrison] described human dignity as “foundational to our freedom” and “the essence of morality”. He declared that “acting to morally enhance the freedom of others ultimately serves to enhance our own freedom” . Hewson then went on to list a few of Morrison’s actions which do the very opposite.
Morrison’s grand words about human dignity mean less than nothing when you delve into his actions, and importantly given his position, his words in support of those actions, as a politician.
MANY but not all Christians firmly believe that attending church and worshiping their God is pretty much all they have to do. After that they can be intolerant, discriminatory and ignore poverty and human misery “knowing” they have a place preserved for them in Heaven. Their failures are put down to human frailty and quickly forgiven because they themselves are living “good lives”, but above all they’re worshiping their God and attending church! I put Morrison firmly in the worshiper category because of his actions, and words in support of those actions.
Catholicism may have changed but when I was brought up in it the focus was on the worshiping, not the doing, with a major exception that remains in my memory to this day. That was an occasion where a TRUE missionary from Sth America came to our primary school to talk about his work and the struggles of the people he helped. These days he would be seen as an advocate of liberation theology because his focus was not on getting them to worship but on obtaining – to use Morrison’s words, HUMAN DIGNITY and freedom from oppression. Meanwhile his brothers across the free world were intent on getting people to Mass and praying to God – as if prayer would cure poverty, hunger and human rights abuse. I didn’t believe it then and I’m absolutely certain that it not only doesn’t now but that it also gives worshipers an excuse for not practicing what they supposedly believe.
I’m undoubtedly biased but I can’t think of one significant act where Morrison and his cabal have acted to “morally enhance the freedom of others”. For someone who shuns responsibility when things get problematic (“I didn’t hold a hose” should be on his epitaph) and turns to others for guidance on the most basic moral, ethical and legal tenets in our society, it seems Morrison hasn’t understood his religion’s teachings.
A long time ago, I wrote a piece about the major division in christianity in Australia. See: https://blotreport.com/2017/12/24/christian-dichotomy-australia/
For many of them, the teachings of Jesus went out the window long ago; it is now all about the prosperity gospel. That is what I call christianity for greedy bastards. That is just the tip of the unethical iceberg. Thou shalt not kill? Only via stressing people with Robodebt, forcing them to stay in Covid hotspots, or gaoling them for 8 years. Thou shalt not commit adultery? Unless it’s one of your staffers. Thou shalt not steal? Unless your donors need some more taxpayer funds to keep their profits up. Thou shalt not bear false witness? Unless it is something to do with vaccines, or climate change, or the budget, or Africans, or Aboriginals, or asylum-seekers, or anything else that requires you to move your lips. I have not witnessed anything near this level of hypocrisy in government, in Australia, ever. It constantly disgusts me.
I remember vaguely a report by some member of Federal Parliament who was walking through the building one day, and who saw Morrison also not far away. The member hastened up to nab the PM en route, and said words to the effect “Scott, I was just hoping you could make time for us to sit and have a discussion/talk about the matter of XXX”. I cannot recall the topic now. But I know Morrison abruptly turned and spoke down to this guy, saying, “I do deals, I don’t discuss. If you want to negotiate then I’ll see you”. That unfriendly, harsh attitude comes from a supposed Christian who believes in treating people respectfully. WHAT? There’s a glimpse of the real Morrison, hard as nails, a non-listener, and arrogant about those traits. Which pastor in his 50 plus years of churchgoing taught this bloke to act that way? Religious belief for him really means creating a solid base of voters who back his appearance of being like them, a “good” ‘upright” always correct, never-to-be-questioned person. Indeed, a fake, a user, a rank opportunist!
Yep. He is a malignant narcissist and religion offers him a convenient vehicle, to justify his bastardry.